thanksgiving desserts?

there are two potential thanksgiving desserts here; one from my mom's kitchen, and one from the mcdonalds in hawaii. you can guess which will be more probable at our thanksgiving table, although i'm sure us filipinos would enjoy the taro pie just as much.

the first is from my recent trip to hawaii with grace (oh, i didn't mention it before? btw, we went to hawaii!) where an advertisment for this very taro pie greeted us constantly on our drives. let's just say mcdonalds is pretty popular there. after seeing it in techicolor so many times, we were curious to see the live model, especially since it is so innocently wrapped in the same apple pie exterior. to break an "apple pie" open to a flood of pale lavender is quite an experience. and actually really delicious too, if you like taro, which is from the yam family, and similar to a golden sweet potato but a little starchier. in the philippines they call it ube, and they use it primarily in desserts.

the second is one of my mom's many amazing creations, and sadly, i don't think it will make it to thanksgiving. to give some context on my mom, this was just for a regular potluck. seriously. this woman is not joking around with dessert. the recipe (including my mom's handwritten comments) is below. i think for thanksgiving she is making pumpkin cheesecake and some probably equally as impressive apple something. oh, and i looked over the recipe and it looks complicated. props to you if you make it, and mad props to my mom!

tortilla inspiration

despite always knowing it, i've only recently come to really realize how much attitude plays a part in overall contentment. in the last two weeks, i've felt pretty down, and not just physically. but none of my circumstances had changed, so it was a mystery to me why i was so uninspired and bored. after days of being sick and watching bad tv, i decided to take matters into my own hands. i've started a great new book, nicole krauss' the history of love, read lots of poems, made comfort food, and spent time with friends, all of which have made me feel much more lively. and which i could have done two weeks prior!

my attitude is much improved, and so am i. and of my home-grown remedies, i believe my friends had the most impact. having people around you who stretch themselves gives you the water you need to start growing again. one of those people is my friend miguel.

a while ago, in the midst of his "mex in the city" project, miguel invited us over to have homemade tortillas. having never had homemade tortillas, i was naively thinking they were going to be something akin to those white disks you get at the grocery store. they are not even close. for one, the grocery store tortillas are vegetarian. yes, my meat-loving friends, the secret to excellent homemade tortillas (as this mexican housewife told me) is lard. lard adds richness and lightness and produces an above-par tortilla. and if you're doubting how healthy it is, check out this article in food and wine titled lard: the new health food?

anyway, i don't actually have the recipe, because since i already blurted out the secret ingredients i'm probably not to be trusted with these family recipe heirlooms. but, in looking at these pictures, i do have some much needed inspiration, and a renewed desire to embark on my own projects.

purple + royal jelly

most of us read "matilda" and "danny, the champion of the world" with nothing but delight, but did you know roald dahl was a master of the creepily terrifying short story? i remember reading one of his best examples, royal jelly, while on vacation when i was 10 or so and being thoroughly messed up by it. the story opens innocently enough, with a dad worrying about his ailing baby, but soon takes a super creepy turn when he takes royal jelly (the food bees make for their larvae) from his beehive to strengthen her and she (and he) start to resemble bees. okay, maybe it's a little obvious nowadays, but it scared the crap out of me at 10.

fast forward to 7 or 8 years later, i'm in some nondescript health food store and i see "royal jelly" on the shelf. other than totally creeping me out, i was fascinated by the fact that human do indeed harvest and consume it for medicinal purposes. what does this long winded story have to do with today, and the pictures above?

well, for one, i am battling an epic cold that has reduced me to staying indoors for 4 of the past 5 days, and can probably use some royal jelly about now. and two, for some reason i always imagined royal jelly as purple- maybe that "royal" part about it? it's not- it looks like condensed milk. but wouldn't it be fun if some purple royal jelly was all i needed to rid me of this awful cold? here's to hoping!

p.s. the macarons are from madeline in chelsea and the grape cider (i asked for it cold) was from a tiny storefront in fort greene that i passed on my way home from "the great pupkin"- pics to come!

chili for mikel

my brother just moved into his own place, which is a BIG DEAL for a 20 year old, and i'm sure elicits a certain amount of anxiety about cooking. knowing he was going to have limited access to his college dining hall, he spent time this summer in my mother's kitchen watching her make his favorite recipes and diligently copying them to take with him back to school. now he's right in the thick of it, and has already exhausted many of the recipes he learned, as well as most of his bank account. i'm impressed that he dove into cooking so quickly, but knowing a). how good my mom's food is and b). how much he eats, i guess i'm not too surprised. so when he called me earlier this week for help with some recipes, i wanted to be prepared, and directed him to a chili recipe i posted on this here blog.

except i didn't post any chili recipe. oops! i make this chili so often, and it has become one of the rotating staples of our household that i just assumed it was on this blog by osmosis. it is a great winter meal- hearty, with as much heat as you want. the preparation involves no more than a can opener, a few chops, and some palms full of spice, along with a little time, making it perfect for the college student trying to cram in some reading. add some diced avocado, cilantro and sour cream on top, and it can even double as something nice enough for a party- although the kind of party my brother is having maybe doesn't involve food as much as drink? he is in college, after all...

here's the recipe finally. good luck!

all-american beef chili, adapted from america's test kitchen

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
about 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground beef
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato purée
fresh ground black pepper

heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat under shimmering. add onions, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and salt. cook until onions have softened, about 7 minutes. stir in garlic and cook 15 seconds.

add beef and increase heat to medium-high. cook until no longer pink, breaking up beef with a spoon. stir in beans, diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato purée and a bit more salt. bring to a simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes.

remove lid and continue to simmer 45 minutes. stir occasionally. season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. you can add avocados, cilantro, shredded cheddar, and sour cream as well.

american history

let america be america again.
let it be the dream it used to be.
let it be the pioneer on the plain
seeking a home where he himself is free.

let america be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
let it be that great strong land of love
where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
that any man be crushed by one above.

o, let my land be a land where Liberty
is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
but opportunity is real, and life is free,
equality is in the air we breathe.

-langston hughes

thank you to everyone who celebrated with me last night. and thank you to everyone out there who made last night possible.
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